No team in Southern California faced a more daunting challenge this season in high school football than the Hawkins Hawks of South Los Angeles.
A year ago, college coaches such as Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Clay Helton of USC were showing up to games to see the team’s “five-star” recruits. Hawkins was one of the top teams in the City Section and reached the Division II championship game.
The offseason sent the program into turmoil. The coaching staff was fired. The team had to forfeit all its victories from 2016 because of ineligible players. Returning players abandoned the program in droves. A newly chosen coach didn’t work out.
In came Richard Dax Sanchies, who accepted the job of head coach just when practice was about to begin last July. The roster had been decimated, but Sanchies went to work. He worked with students who didn't even play football last season. He discovered other players were ineligible because they needed to improve their grades. Each week, the challenge was immense.
The roster included fewer than 20 players at times. Students had to learn to play multiple positions, let alone how to put on pads. The losses mounted, but the players never gave up. Neither did their coach. The team finished 0-11 this season. Sanchies and his players may have learned more lessons this season dealing with adversity than all of last season when the team was winning games.
“I’m not disappointed in our kids,” Sanchies said. “I’m actually proud of them. I’m very proud to be their coach because a lot of their stories outside of football are amazing.”